Making The Case: Scott Rolen and the 2018 Hall of Fame Ballot

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Scott Rolen
ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 17: Scott Rolen #27 of the St. Louis Cardinals fields the ball against the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 17, 2007 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. The Pirates beat the Cards 6-1. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

The Hall of Fame class of 2018 is stocked full with players deserving to have their career enshrined on a plaque in Cooperstown. There are 33 candidates, including 19 players new to the ballot. One of the first ballot stars is third baseman Scott Rolen, and he is deserving of an induction into the halls of Cooperstown.

Making The Case: Scott Rolen and the 2018 Hall of Fame Ballot

There’s a whirlwind of debates regarding Hall of Fame voting, the obvious being the induction of PED users. Yet, there are other arguments that lump eligible players into this newfound, popular statement:

“This is the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Very Good.” – anonymous

Scott Rolen is one player whose name is often slandered by such a statement. Rolen was not just “very good,” he was a superstar, and one of the best all-around third basemen since the Baltimore Orioles Brooks Robinson.

A Five-Tool Star

The 1997 Rookie of the Year, seven-time all-star and eight-time gold glove recipient quietly dominated the sport from a stretch of 1996-2004. In that span, his average slash line was .286/.378/.520 and averaged a WAR of 5.1 per year. Rolen’s 226 home runs and 831 RBI made him an offensive catalyst for the Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals.

Even with the offensive prowess, his superior tool was his glove.

In terms of defensive WAR, Rolen ranks fifth among third basemen of all-time with 20.6. The noteworthy names ahead of him feature the greatest defensive third baseman of all time, Brooks Robinson (38.8), future Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre (27.8), and Buddy Bell (23).

Rolen’s defensive WAR ranks in the top fifty in baseball history.

His 17-year career was special and frankly could have been more spectacular if he wasn’t the victim of perpetual left-shoulder issues after colliding with a base runner in 2005.

The Argument For Scott Rolen

Unfortunately for Scott Rolen, he shares the ballot with fellow third basemen Chipper Jones, who will absolutely be inducted. Jones position on the ballot will likely overshadow Rolen’s pedigree.

Furthermore, the hot corner is simply not a position that fills the walls of Cooperstown. There are just 13 third basemen in the Hall of Fame, but Rolen quietly ranks among the best of them.

Take for example, Chicago Cubs legend and 2012 inductee, Ron Santo. Scott Rolen’s career output is strikingly similar to Santo’s. The slash line for Ron Santo was .277/.362/.464, while Rolen’s was .281/.364/.490. Rolen’s career WAR of 70 is only 0.4 less than the Cubs legend.

The last point I’ll make eludes to Jay Jaffe’s Hall of Fame scoring system called JAWS. It’s a basic system that takes into account a player’s career WAR and seven-year peak WAR, Rolen earned a score of 56.8. The average Hall of fame score for third basemen is 55.2.

Rolen’s JAWS rating surpasses six other third basemen who are currently in Cooperstown. The only non-Hall of Famer’s with a higher JAWS rating is Adrian Beltre and Chipper Jones, and both will almost certainly earn their place soon.

For Scott Rolen, he likely won’t be standing at a podium delivering his acceptance speech with his bronze plaque behind him next July. It’s doubtful that Rolen will be inducted the following year either. Instead, he may loom on the ballot for several years. Though at some point, Scott Rolen should be immortalized in Cooperstown, because his career is so much better than the “Hall of Very Good.”

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Scott Rolen has four big non-stat problems: (1) On same ballot as Chipper Jones. (2) Adrian Beltre and his increasing HOF numbers – 3000/3250+ hits, 600/650+ 2B hits, 1500/1600+ runs, 1600/1700+ rbi, 5000/5500+ total bases, 450/500+ home runs, most games played at 3b, and possibly most games played at a single position. (3) Might also be compared to the young crop of 3rd baseman – Kris Bryant, Manny Machado, Nolan Arenado, Josh Donaldson; Arenado and Machado already have over half of Rolen’s career dWAR. (4) With such a crowded ballot, it’s possible he will be a one and done due to mathematical exclusion.

    Lets look at Rolen’s counting stats compared to all 3rd baseman:
    Hits (23rd), Runs (16th), RBI (14th), HR (15th), 2B (6th) – Scott Rolen
    Hits (6th), Runs (2nd), RBI (2nd), HR (3rd), 2B (5th) – Chipper Jones
    Hits (3rd), Runs (8th), RBI (1st), HR (4th), 2B (2nd) – Adrian Beltre (one year left on contract).
    One stat in the top 10 is not going to cut it.
    I love to use Total Bases to determine how valuable a player was – Rolen (3628 – 146th all time), Jones (4755 – 32nd all time), and Beltre (5121 – 17th all time).

    WAR and JAWS – I prefer to use the last few players elected into the bHOF at the particular position in question; players, that are close to or contemporaries to a particular player. Older players and veteran committee HOF inductees have a tendency to skew the average HOF WAR and JAWS to the lower end – HOF 3rd baseman career WAR/JAWS that skew the average way down – (Freddie Lindstrom – 28.3/27.3; Pie Traynor – 36.2/31; George Kell – 37.4/32.6; Deacon White – 45.5/35.7; John McGraw – 45.6/42.3). The last four 3rd baseman to get elected or will get elected this year (Molitor is a DH and is not included) are:
    Chipper Jones – 85.0 WAR and 65.8 JAWS;
    Wade Boggs – 91.1 WAR and 73.6 JAWS;
    George Brett – 88.4 WAR and 70.8 JAWS;
    Mike Schmidt – 106.5 WAR and 82.5 JAWS.
    These recent HOF 3rd baseman have an average – 92.75 WAR and 73.2 JAWS. Scott Rolen – 70.0 WAR (-22.75 from average) and 56.8 JAWS (-16.4). Even if you leave out Schmidt’s WAR and JAWS that is an average – 88.2 WAR and 70.1 JAWS. Rolen is sill a -18.2 WAR and – 13.3 JAWS. Rolen’s stats are a far cry from recent HOF 3rd baseman. Should be noted – Adrian Beltre has a 93.9 WAR and 71.8 JAWS and a year left on his contract; therefore, the recent average WAR and JAWS for a 3rd baseman are going to get higher upon his induction.
    Also, Rolen only had 4 years of 5.0+ WAR. Jones had 8 and Beltre 10.

    Rolen had a very good career, but not a HOF one. The price of being injured as often as he was.

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